Is there a word which means to do something specifically to undermine the status quo? Perhaps in a political context?

6 Answers 6


subvert [verb]

undermine the power and authority of (an established system or institution)

an attempt to subvert democratic government



Revolt, according to Cambridge Dictionary:

If a large number of people revolt, they refuse to be controlled or ruled, and take action against authority, often violent action.

One of their examples (quoted from the same page):

Californians may be ready to revolt against broad cuts in government services.

Attribution: "Revolt Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary." Cambridge Dictionary. Accessed March 30, 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/revolt.

  • we got skunked on this one!
    – lbf
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 22:56
  • no votes for either of our answers ... yet
    – lbf
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 22:59

game-changer EOLD

An event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current way of doing or thinking about something. ‘a potential game changer that could revitalize the entire US aerospace industry’

Although probably originally a sports phrase, it's used in politics and business.

As for a person who shakes things up, gadfly:

A gadfly is a person who interferes with the status quo of a society or community by posing novel, potently upsetting questions, usually directed at authorities. The term is originally associated with the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, in his defense when on trial for his life. (Wikipedia, "social gadfly")

  • I can see gadfly, but I don't think that game-changer implies intent in the way that OP needs.
    – Gossar
    Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 3:19

The idiom rock the boat means "to do or say something that may upset the status quo."


kibosh TFD and Word of the Day MW Dictionary Podcast

(Related to kibosh: put the kibosh on)

a check, end, or stop.

As in (without a sample sentence):

He put the kibosh/ is trying to kibosh our long standing X.

  • Gold, David L. 2011. “After at least 138 years of discussion, the etymological puzzle is possibly solved: the originally British English informalism kibosh as in ‘put the kibosh on [something]’ could come from the clogmakers’ term kybosh ‘iron bar which, when hot, is used by clogmakers to soften and smooth leather’ (with possible reinforcement from Western Ashkenazic British English khay bash ‘eighteen pence’).” Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses. No. 24. Pp. 73-129 (available free online; search for it). Commented Jun 12 at 2:35

I believe the word is sabotage. And I like the French pronunciation.

SABOTAGE [chapter heading] The title we have prefixed seems to mean "scamping work." It is a device which, we are told, has been adopted by certain French workpeople as a substitute for striking. The workman, in other words, purposes to remain on and to do his work badly, so as to annoy his employer's customers and cause loss to his employer. ["The Liberty Review," January 1907]

You may believe that sabotage is murder, and so forth, but it is not so at all. Sabotage means giving back to the bosses what they give to us. Sabotage consists in going slow with the process of production when the bosses go slow with the same process in regard to wages. [Arturo M. Giovannitti, quoted in report of the Sagamore Sociological Conference, June 1907]

In English, "malicious mischief" would appear to be the nearest explicit definition of "sabotage," which is so much more expressive as to be likely of adoption into all languages spoken by nations suffering from this new force in industry and morals. Sabotage has a flavor which is unmistakable even to persons knowing little slang and no French .... ["Century Magazine," November 1910]

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